I detest Donald Trump’s feigned ignorance above all else. True ignorance would be preferable to the hostile agression and insulting rejection on display when he shakes hands, or refuses to do so.
The handshake is not a new gesture. It is depicted in fourth and fifth century B.C. Greek funerary art, several times in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and on Ancient Roman coins. Historically handshakes seal a pledge, they are a goodwill gesture of peace demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon, they are a display of trust, and a symbol of friendship and loyalty…they still are for most people.
Conversely, Donald Trump’s handshakes are akin to a sucker punch. In good faith the unwitting victim extends his hand. Trump yanks forward several times (the lumberjack) while squeezing (the bone cruncher) with all his strength. He uses his other arm to aid in his onslaught by slapping the shoulder or back, or to trap the clenched hand in his grip. This borders on assault, and he does it all with a smile.
Donald Trump’s handshakes are so offensive that videos of the abhorrent violations have gone viral worldwide, as did video of his uncivilized refusal to shake Angela Merkel’s hand. The rejected handshake sends an equally powerful insult.
France’s new president Emmanuel Macron was clearly not caught unaware. He beat Trump at his own white knuckle handshake. Macron later described the handshake as “a moment of truth” — designed to show that he’s no pushover. “My handshake with him, it wasn’t innocent,” Macron told newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones.”
Macron also won round two later that day when he headed directly toward Trump, as if for a greeting, then swerved away to greet Merkel and others instead. Trump sought revenge when Macron finally turned to greet him.
Donald Trump’s behavior in Europe was a disgrace last week, likened to that of a drunk tourist. He has left European leaders distancing themselves from the US, no longer considering America an ally.
Trump would benefit from an étiqueté lesson. Most books on etiquette include guidelines for proper handshaking technique, “firm but not overly strong“. One 1877 guide counseled its readers that, “a gentleman who rudely presses the hand offered him in salutation, or too violently shakes it, ought never to have an opportunity to repeat his offense.” This advice has merit today.
Donald Trump feigns ignorance to excuse his rudeness. He is well aware of every insult from pushing aside a prime minister at the NATO summit to ignoring a request to shake Angela Merkels hand. Insecurity drives his desperate attempts to discompose and dominate. These are world leaders he brutalizes with his embarrassing handshakes, but what is truly frightening is the knowledge that this buffoon has the nuclear codes.